West Seattle Thriftway was busy stocking their 'Spirits' shelves on Wednesday, May 23, getting ready for retail liquor sales on June 1. CLICK THE PHOTO TO SEE MORE
Area grocery stores prepping for liquor sales; 20.5% spirits sales tax will be applied
As June 1 approaches, grocery stores in the area are preparing for liquor sales. When Initiative 1183 was voted into law, taking the state out of the spirits business, it also carried forward existing taxes, including the "Spirits Sales Tax" of 20.5%.
Of the nine grocery stores in West Seattle eight are in the process of preparing. The only store not preparing at this point is PCC, as no decision has yet been made.
Safeway stores have replaced sections of their wine departments and are using a colorful, cloth to cover the products on the shelves. Safeway said they plan to carry "an average of 450" brands, "including a good selection of premium brands."
QFC in Westwood Village is making preparations but as of Thursday, the area in the wine department was still unstocked.
West Seattle Thriftway was busy on May 23, stocking shelves and preparing the area in the northeast corner of the store.
Owner Paul Kapioski said, "It's been tough to get the product. Distributors are still scrambling to have inventory. One distributor is at a 30% fill rate on the orders so it's going to take several times to get everything filled. At the same time they have a lot of trucks on the road. When you have to initially fill 4000 stores that's a lot of inventory."
Most stores will have a locked cabinet for high end, more expensive products but Thriftway will also carry some unusual and local brands. "We're going to have a lot of unique items and some organic items and well known local items," said Kapioski. Dry Fly brand vodka, gin and whiskey will all be sold there. They will carry Woodinville Whiskey Works products. "We'll have a product from Snohomish called Project V and we'll have a real good scotch section."
Despite being able to sell liquor at retail, Kapioski said the taxes on it will mean it won't be a high margin item."There are a lot of new taxes that will impact the retail price," he said.
Those taxes will mean consumers may be surprised at the price they see at checkout. Retailers by law must "separately state the spirits taxes" by breaking them out on the receipt as a way of explaining the total cost.
The State of Washington on their website outlines the taxes this way:
"Spirits Sales Tax (SST): This tax is based on the selling price of spirits in their original package.
Spirits sales tax rate paid by the general public: 20.5%
Spirits sales tax rate paid by on-premises retailers such as restaurants, bars, etc., on their purchases from distributors, distillers, etc.: 13.7%
Spirits Liter Tax (SLT): This tax is based on the volume of the spirits being sold in the original package.
Spirits liter tax rate paid by the general public: $3.7708 per liter
Spirits liter tax rate paid by on-premises retailers such as restaurants, bars, etc., on their purchases from distributors, distillers, etc.: $2.4408 per liter
Other taxes also apply.
Business & Occupation (B&O) taxes: B&O taxes apply to the manufacture and/or sale of spirits.
Retail sales tax: This tax is collected on drinks containing spirits sold by restaurants, bars or other establishments that have an on-premises license.
This tax rate is the same as applied now, so given the nature of price competition among retailers the cost of some liquor may be lower but that's not certain. The taxes charged in Washington State have been shown to be the highest in the nation.
According to the latest published industry data,1 in 2007 Washington ranked third among all states (behind New Hampshire and Rhode Island) in revenue from alcohol beverages in relation to adult population. Washington taxes, fees, and monopoly profits from all types of alcohol beverages amounted to $128.16 per capita, compared with the U.S. average of $78.48. Taxes on spirits were higher in Washington than in any other state.
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